All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end. (MSG)
And law came in, that the offence might abound, and where the sin did abound, the grace did over-abound, that even as the sin did reign in the death, so also the grace may reign, through righteousness, to life age-during, through Jesus Christ our Lord. (YLT)
If you know me or if you’ve read my blog long enough you know—I struggle with rules. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a psychopath. I live within the constraints of society and I do my best to “be good.” I bet you are the same.
So let me ask you, How is that going for you?
Paul is on shaky ground. He’s writing to Jewish converts. For Paul to suggest that God’s law can’t produce the righteousness God is looking for, is to say the least, radical. Keeping the law—what else can one do?
If trying to be good enough by keeping the rules is your aim—I’d like to invite you into my heart—you can decide if you share the same struggle.
If I look at The Ten Commandments, I can find a few that I have no problem keeping. I don’t steal. I haven’t killed anyone. I’m faithful to my husband. If you are interested in cutting me the slightest bit of slack, I’m content with what I have. I only lie if it benefits someone else. I go to church whenever I can. I don’t own any “idols.” I was a pretty good kid when it came to my relationship with my parents. I will admit, “Gee”, “Gosh” and sometimes worse things slip by my lips.
Overall, on a good day, I’d give myself a 75%. I’m average and you probably are, too. If you think that’s true, I’d suggest you not read Deuteronomy. If you want to see you’re minor indiscretions in a new light, read Deuteronomy, but be ready to feel some rebellion well up in your heart. If you honestly read Deuteronomy, you’ll never look at money laying on the ground the same way again—did you know picking it up is stealing—since it’s not really yours? God’s Law has no finders-keepers clause. God’s Law is strict!
If that’s not bad enough, then I read Jesus’ words—I find out how silly and meager my efforts are when I read Jesus’ words in Matthew 22 and Matthew 5. After reading those passages, I’m at 0% compliance. Although, I’m inclined to allow myself some wiggle room in how I live out God’s law, God isn’t—or should I say The Law isn’t.
The exercise you and I have just worked through is part of being religious. I’m going to be as bold as Paul when I claim that following the rules doesn’t make you a Christian. Can you see why after this short exercise?
Rules—The Law—only highlight our failure. Unless we are painfully honest with ourselves, we excuse and rationalize our poor behavior. Worshipping the rules can only make one squirm. Rules breed rebellion. Rules cause you and me to focus on US and OUR good or bad behavior. Trying to relate to God by following the rules cheapens God’s precious gift of grace as we push grace aside and attempt to be good enough on our own.
Paul wrote to those who he knew would find his words scandalous this truth; rules (The Law) exist to show us how pitiful and futile our attempt to be good enough really is.
If you can’t keep the rules—REJOICE—where sin abounds, grace SUPER-abounds! WOW!
Keeping God’s law is impossible. Breaking God’s law is sin. Sin is deceptive. It’s insidious. Sin would have you believe that you are good enough, you’re trying hard enough, you’re better than him or her, or God doesn’t care if you break the rules as long as you’re “trying” to be good. Sin is a terrible master—terrible because sin would have you believe you can master it—in the end, sin always masters you.
Jesus makes everything different! Paul pounded that fact home throughout chapter 5 (Romans 5:1, 9, 10, 11, 17, 21). If sin abounds in your life—grace can SUPER-abound. Jesus can replace the death of sin with His life and God’s righteousness. Christ is the only solution to this quandary.
God’s grace, His kindness, His love SUPER-ABOUND in the life of the one who accepts the benefit of Christ’s sacrifice on his or her behalf—have you taken advantage of this life-changing offer? Have you allowed this offer to change your life?
Is this scary? You bet! When I can’t do anything to make my situation better—when I’m out of control—I’m not a happy person. Here’s the message, if you are trying to be good enough on your own—you are not in control—sin is.
If you’re too frightened, don’t worry, Paul isn’t done.
Father, thank You for Your grace. Soften my heart—make Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf enough. Help me to rest in Your grace as the only thing that makes me righteous. Increase my faith so that I only trust in You.